Shinsarugakuki (新猿楽記, also pronounced Shinsarugōki, An Account of the New Monkey Music,[1] or A Record of New Sarugaku)[2] is an 11th-century Japanese work of fiction written by Fujiwara no Akihira (989–1066).[2] The work consists of an introduction and twenty-eight short chapters and portrays a sarugaku performance took place in Kyoto and the family of a military official Uemon-no-jō in the audience. While describing the performance in the introduction and the members of Uemon-no-jō's family, namely his three wives, sixteen daughters and/or their husbands, and nine sons, in the following chapters, the narrative incorporates various words related to performing arts and the respective occupation of the figures and thus provides the readers with lists of objects. For example, the book provides in the introduction an account of various performances, including comic sketches, lion dances, puppets, rice-planting songs, and solo sumo wrestling.[2] As a result, Shinsarugakuki is considered to be one of the most important sources relating the lives and society of the time.

Ideal farmer

The husband of Uemon-no-jō's third daughter Tanaka no Toyomasu is a farmer and therefore the narrator describes the life of an idealistic landholding farmer in the chapter.[3] Toyomasu is described as daimyo-tato, a farmer with land holdings. He meticulously tills his lands at the right time, with his own agricultural implements of Chinese origin. He has skills to mend them as required and has an excellent reputation with people who work with him on his fields. He pays for additional work to restore the embankment ditches and paths along the rice fields. He ensures the sowing season for late crops of rice, as well as glutinous rice. The farmer is also present during the planting of all other crops, such as barley, wheat, soy bean, cowpea, millet, buckwheat and sesame in the regular season, assuring that they are all strictly observed, and that the workers, both men and women, who help him in this planning process, are duly rewarded. He does not believe in the wasting of sowing grains. His return at the end of harvest and pounding is always several fold more (exaggerates it as “ten thousand times more”).[3]

Trading of goods

The eighth son Hachirō-mauto is a trader and in his description, the author gives an account of both domestic and international trades, revealing an insight into trade in East Asia at the time. Hachirō-mauto is supposed to have traveled to the land of the Emishi in the east and to Kikai Island in the west. The items listed as the goods he imports (karamono) include perfumes, medicines, animal hides, dyes, brocades, and nuts from Korea, China, South Asia, South East Asia, and Central Asia.[4] In more detail, they are "spices and fragrances such as Aloeswood (agalloch, Garro/Gharo), musk, cloves, sandalwood oil, frankincense (or retinite), birtwarth root, borneol, camphor; precious woods such as sandalwood, Sandarswood, Bichofia and sappanwood; medicines such as Alum, elixir of gold, elixir of silver, croton oil, orpiment, myrobalans, betel (areca nuts); pigments such as Gamboge, indigo, lac, verdigris, azurite, minium, cinebar and ceruse; textiles such as twill, brocade, scarlet raiment, “elephant eye” damask, soft Koryo brocade, Tonkin brocade, silk gauze and crape; other items such as leopard and tiger skins, rattan, teacups, wicker baskets, rhinoceros horns, water buffalo (horn) scepters, agate belts, glass urns, Chinese bamboo, sweet bamboo, and hollow glass balls."[5][6][7] Except for minerals, the other goods generally originated from forests of South and Southeast Asia transported by ship to East Asia; mineral products were, however, from Central Asia. For the pan-European network of exchange, Japan was the terminus.[5]


  1. ^ Shirane, Haruo (2012). Traditional Japanese Literature: An Anthology, Beginnings to 1600. Columbia University Press. pp. 248–. ISBN 978-0-231-15730-8. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  2. ^ a b c Brazell, Karen (1998). Traditional Japanese Theater: An Anthology of Plays. Columbia University Press. pp. 7–. ISBN 978-0-231-10872-0. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  3. ^ a b Lu, David John (1997). Japan: A Documentary History. M.E. Sharpe. p. 100. ISBN 978-1-56324-906-8. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  4. ^ Delgado, James P. (2008). Khubilai Khan's Lost Fleet: In Search of a Legendary Armada. University of California Press. pp. 84–. ISBN 978-0-520-25976-8. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  5. ^ a b Batten, Bruce Loyd (2006). Gateway to Japan: Hakata in War And Peace, 500-1300. University of Hawaii Press. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-8248-3029-8. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  6. ^ Monumenta Nipponica. Sophia University. 2007. p. 484. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  7. ^ Segal, Ethan Isaac; History, Stanford University. Dept. of (2003). Economic growth and changes in elite power structures in medieval Japan, 1150-1500. Stanford University. pp. 69–70. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
Biwa hōshi

Biwa hōshi (琵琶法師), also known as "lute priests", were travelling performers in the era of Japanese history preceding the Meiji period. They earned their income by reciting vocal literature to the accompaniment of biwa music. Often blind, they adopted the shaved heads and robes common to Buddhist monks. This occupation likely had its origin in China and India, where blind Buddhist lay-priest performers were once common.

Their musical style is referred to as heikyoku (平曲), which literally means "heike music". Although these performers existed well before the events of the Genpei War, they eventually became famous for narrating. Before biwa hōshi sang heikyoku, they were entertainers and ritual performers. They took on a broad range of roles, including poetry and song, plague prevention, and spiritual purification; actually, it was probably because of their ritualistic duties that they became the caretakers of The Tale of the Heike (平家物語, Heike Monogatari).

The biwa hōshi are considered the first performers of the Tale of the Heike, which is one of Japan`s most famous epics. It details battles between two powerful clans, the Minamoto and the Taira around the 12th century. The Taira (or Heike) were eventually annihilated by the Minamoto (sometimes called the Genji), who systematically killed every male descendant of the Taira. Religion in Japan at the time incorporated many native animistic (Shinto) beliefs into its Buddhist theological framework, leading many court nobles and religious leaders to worry about angry Taira spirits disrupting the peace. The great earthquake around 1185 CE contributed to this sentiment. Since their rituals included placating spirits and preventing plagues, heike music became a vehicle for placating lingering, resentful Heike spirits. Heikyoku and biwa hōshi became immensely popular for the next several hundred years.


Kikaijima (喜界島, also Kikai-ga-jima; Kikai: キャー Kyaa, Northern Ryukyuan: ききや Kikiya) is one of the Satsunan Islands, classed with the Amami archipelago between Kyūshū and Okinawa.The island, 56.93 square kilometres (21.98 sq mi) in area, has a population of approximately 7,657 persons. Administratively the island forms the town of Kikai, Kagoshima Prefecture. Much of the island is within the borders of the Amami Guntō Quasi-National Park.

Ryukyu Islands

The Ryukyu Islands (琉球諸島, Ryūkyū-shotō), also known as the Nansei Islands (南西諸島, Nansei-shotō, lit. "Southwest Islands") or the Ryukyu Arc (琉球弧, Ryūkyū-ko), are a chain of Japanese islands that stretch southwest from Kyushu to Taiwan: the Ōsumi, Tokara, Amami, Okinawa, and Sakishima Islands (further divided into the Miyako and Yaeyama Islands), with Yonaguni the westernmost. The larger are mostly high islands and the smaller mostly coral. The largest is Okinawa Island.

The climate of the islands ranges from humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa) in the north to tropical rainforest climate (Köppen climate classification Af) in the south. Precipitation is very high and is affected by the rainy season and typhoons. Except the outlying Daitō Islands, the island chain has two major geologic boundaries, the Tokara Strait (between the Tokara and Amami Islands) and the Kerama Gap (between the Okinawa and Miyako Islands). The islands beyond the Tokara Strait are characterized by their coral reefs.

The Ōsumi and Tokara Islands, the northernmost of the islands, fall under the cultural sphere of the Kyushu region of Japan; the people are ethnically Japanese and speak a variation of the Kagoshima dialect of Japanese. The Amami, Okinawa, Miyako, and Yaeyama Islands have a native population collectively called the Ryukyuan people, named for the former Ryukyu Kingdom that ruled them. The varied Ryukyuan languages are traditionally spoken on these islands, and the major islands have their own distinct languages. In modern times, the Japanese language is the primary language of the islands, with the Okinawan Japanese dialect prevalently spoken. The outlying Daitō Islands were uninhabited until the Meiji period, when their development was started mainly by people from the Izu Islands south of Tokyo, with the people there speaking the Hachijō language.

Administratively, the islands are divided into Kagoshima Prefecture (specifically the islands administered by Kagoshima District, Kumage Subprefecture/District, and Ōshima Subprefecture/District) in the north and Okinawa Prefecture in the south, with the divide between the Amami and Okinawa Islands, with the Daitō Islands part of Okinawa Prefecture. The northern (Kagoshima) islands are collectively called the Satsunan Islands, while the southern part of the chain (Okinawa Prefecture) are called the Ryukyu Islands in Chinese.


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